Chatterbox

Yesterday I missed the #ripplesofdoubt conversation and this morning as I read through the Storify and the hashtag search, it brought up the fact that I have my own, but not in the same way as everyone else. Indeed, perhaps, this is another thing entirely.

I have actively decided on a number of occasions (on a variety of topics, over a period of many years) not to voice my opinion publicly. For some of you, especially those who know me personally, this may be surprising (perhaps even unbelievable). I am an incredibly opinionated, confident, well-spoken individual, which frequently leads to my voice being heard above others, but here’s the kicker… only when I can see your face.

The fact that I have debating whether or not even to post this only confirms to me that this is the case. I have decided to write this, because my #ripplesofdoubt are about myself and my own behaviour. I want to examine why I feel to need to bite my tongue, or perhaps make a fist – if referring to not speaking out in written form via e-mail, Twitter, blog posts, articles, etc.

Thus far, I have come up with the following reasons, and as I approach the reality of writing them down I am palpably nervous because I feel like you will misunderstand me and I will not have an opportunity to respond in order to clarify, explain, or expand further a particular point – and I suppose that that, is reason number one.

It takes me quite a long time to articulate my thoughts in written form. I cannot count the number of times I have drafted, re-drafted, wrote, edited, re-wrote, and then just deleted an entire piece of work because I have felt it didn’t properly express what I was trying to communicate. I imagine you would be shocked to learn how many times that has already happened in this post, despite how poorly it still reads (and how short it is).

This bothers me, especially as I am now in a position where expressing myself in person is more difficult. I now face the same problems I do in written form, because while I can still talk for (insert country here), due to hearing loss I cannot always follow a conversation or debate as I used to (even with hearing aids). But it is much more difficult in the spoken world to draft, write, edit, and especially delete.

It terrifies me that right now, I don’t feel comfortable in any form of communication. Whereas before I was okay with being silent online, this was because I had the knowledge that I could make a stand out in the world of flesh and blood. But now, and until I and my brain adapt, I have become quiet there. For someone who is used to being heard, it is very difficult being silent.

And then there is this. I know that while I am incredibly personable (although obviously not humble), my opinions are divisive and therefore I frequently find it easier to keep my opinions to myself, rather than to make waves.

Now, if there is something that is harming people, in any way, then I will speak out – whether by speaking or by writing. I am not one to stand by and let other people be hurt if there is something I can do about it.

[Side note: Although after following the recent #ripplesofdoubt conversations I do wonder if there is something I could have done (or indeed, something I can still do) to help people for whom this is the case. If it is happening so frequently, then surely it is happening around me. I do wonder if I haven’t seen it because I haven’t been looking for it. If I have ever not stood up for you, I am sorry.]

But on other issues, where standing up or defending other people isn’t the case, you should probably just consider me out of the conversation if we’re not in the same room. Or now, even if we are in the same room. Yet, these other issues are often ones where I feel an alternate opinion should be voiced. As long as it’s not mine…

Now, this isn’t about imposter syndrome. Of course I have my days like so many others, but I know that I’m smart and that I am where I am because of hard work, determination, and good sense of perspective. I know that my opinions are valid (and where required, they are supported by well-researched evidence)! I also know that my opinions are welcome.

However, I am still at a point in my academic or professional life where I could ruin myself by disagreeing with the people who will influence my future in this discipline. I feel this way regardless of whether the opinion I withhold is of an academic matter (e.g. the usefulness of a particular methodology) or a personal position (e.g. the representation of archaeology in relation to the recent McArthur genius grant award). It is much easier to agree with the perceived public opinion and since I rarely do, it is even easier to say nothing at all. But it isn’t right. Is it? It isn’t even necessary!

No, the ripples of doubt I have are not about the behaviour of other people towards me. The ripples of doubt I have are about myself; about me doubting myself, doubting my opinions, and doubting my confidence. It needs to stop. I need to realise that you’re not all out to get me. Life is a series of conversations, with opportunities to respond, to explain, and to clarify. Or at least it should be, and I know that for the people who matter, it is.

There are other reasons, but they are mostly part and parcel of those above.

For me, the world of writing is very similar to the world of speaking now. It is more difficult to read, the response time is slower, and the audience is vast and unknowable. But from other people voicing their #ripplesofdoubt and even more their #ripplesofhope I am deciding, here and now, that rather than retreat into silence, as I have been doing lately, I am going to share my opinions and in doing so I will better learn to articulate them. I know it might be a rather uphill learning curve, but I am prepared for that now.

I am going to start right now by letting you know what I need from you to make this possible:

In the world of written communication. In any situation if you don’t understand me, let me know and give me an opportunity to respond. If you don’t agree with me, that is okay. We can still be academic and professional colleagues even if we have different opinions, so unless it is a personal matter, do not take it personally. If you do agree with me, please let me know. I will be trying to do the same from now on – instead of reading and running. We should aim to make our support more visible, as these past few days have shown us that it is needed.

In the world of spoken communication. If you are speaking with me, whether on our own or in a group, please make sure that I can follow the conversation or debate. You may have met me before my hearing fell off a cliff, but even though I have hearing aids now, things are different for me. If we are in a relatively quiet place, make sure I can hear what is being said. If we are in a noisy place, make sure that I can see the face of the person speaking. If I’m not participating in the discussion, it might be because I’ve given up. I will try not to do this from now on, by letting you know if there is anything you can do to allow me to take part. But please, you know me now, I am a chatterbox, so if I’m not joining in, it’s probably not because I have nothing to say.

Now, to you, people of the written world, this post may not seem like much. However, for me this is a big step. I am saying publicly, so you can hold me to it, that I am going to stop doubting myself and start letting you know what I think… about a great many things.

Here’s hoping that we can still be friends, once you know how I feel about the world.

[This post will be edited shortly to add links where necessary. However, I’m posting this now so that I can’t take it back.]

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4 responses to “Chatterbox

  1. Bravo Alison.
    Something I do when afraid of standing up, sort of different side to your “you’re not all out to get me”…. is to realise that yes, some people WILL take against me for good or bad reasons, but they will be outnumbered by the rest who are open to hearing genuinely held thoughts/ real experiences.
    Good luck with your hearing issues too xx

    • Thank you Becky. I am starting to learn that while I have often thought that I don’t care what people think of me, that is awfully untrue. I obviously care what the people whom I respect think of me, which is perhaps why I’ve been silent. I am learning that I needn’t be though, as their words are most regularly kind ones, even when offering criticism.

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